Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Cousin(s) (05/22/08)
TITLE: What's in a name?
By Folakemi Emem-Akpan
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Today, Stephanie sheds the surname we’ve shared for twenty-three years. The surname that was originally, rightfully hers. The one I was given out of love.
She dances with her brand new husband; a dancing style that hasn’t yet been invented, for they are as close as two humans can ever hope to get. She is practically standing on his legs; they are barely moving, lost in a new world they’re about to explore together.
There’s a burning sensation behind my eyelids, tears I dare not release. I tell myself I’m not losing my sister, assure myself that a name change wouldn’t stop Stephanie from being the intimate sister I’ve always had.
What’s in a name anyway?
In my short life, I’ve had two last names. And in two weeks, I’d have a new one as well.
For a day, my surname was Brown, etched in calligraphy on the birth certificate the government hospital automatically issues.
A lot can happen in twenty-four hours. The day after I was born, my mother went home to be with the angels. For four months, she’d borne the weight of her pregnancy alone, had wept every night into her pillow, was practically heartbroken. Because her husband, the man that was my biological father, had been snatched from her in a car accident that made less and less sense as the days passed.
My mother had gotten pregnant with me in the same month that her sister, Aunty Mariah, became pregnant with Stephanie. Stephanie had arrived ten days before me.
Heartbroken, almost disconsolate at the loss of her sister, Mariah was desperate to have the last thing her sister had left behind.
So I came home to my family. I became Stephanie’s sister rather than her cousin. We suckled at the same breast, shared the same nursery, were dressed identically. Many a times, we were mistaken for twins.
When I was a year old, I legally became Catherine Brooks.
“Are you all right?”
The memories dissipate behind my eyelids at the sound of our daddy’s voice. Over the years, he’s become mellow and sweet in that way only age can bring about. His hair is now more gray than black, and there’s a faint network of wrinkles at the sides of his eyes.
“Oh dad. It’s so hard to watch Stephanie go. I miss her so much already.”
He smiles his expansive smile. “You’ve always been the tender one. Of course you’ll miss her. It’s only natural you feel that way about a sister who’s shared your whole life with you.”
I turn to him and grasp his hand in mine. “How’re you and Mum going to cope when I leave too?”
A cloud seems to birth in his eyes. He blinks it away and leads me to a seat before he speaks. “It’s only natural for children to grow up and leave their parents. That’s how it works. I admit it won’t be easy but we’ll cope. We will cope.” He suddenly chuckles, “But you girls are sure funny. Your sister came to us ten days before you did. Now, she’s leaving two weeks before you. Aren’t you guys something?”
I blink back the rows of teardrops behind my eyelids. “Yes we are. And you guys are the best parents two girls could ever wish for. By the way, where’s Mum?”
“Doing what she knows how best to do.”
I laugh, a delicious sound. “In the kitchen, bossing the caterers around.”
We laugh together, quietly, companionably; the father of the bride, and the sister of the bride.
“Excuse me, but may I have this dance?”
I look up into the brown eyes of Sam, the man whose wife I’ll become in two weeks. I smile at him. “Of course.”
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